Health support worker job description

Health support workers (also called social and human service assistants) often provide a connection between social workers, health care providers and patients, both in and outside of health care or social service facilities. Support workers can be case managers, advocates or aides and perform other tasks supervised by nurses, psychiatrists or psychologists, social workers or doctors. A support worker does his or her work in the community, directly with clients or patients.


Promotores/Promotoras or community health workers, go into a community and identify people who need social and health services and help obtain it for them. CHWs often work in underserved populations that won't seek benefits on their own, such as refugee communities or immigrant neighbourhoods. They are usually of the same social or ethnic and class background as those they serve or live in the same area. They offer culturally appropriate health education, give informal counselling on health, advocate for individual and community health needs and provide some first aid care.


Social and health support workers work in residential recovery homes, housing programs and mental health treatment homes to offer patients a better quality of life. They administer food programs, help with behavioural or physical therapy, supervise medication and interface between family members and medical caregivers. They advocate on behalf of a patient's needs and offer emotional support to their clients in difficult situations.


Support workers can help social workers and agencies screen clients for benefits and program eligibility. Support workers are trained to do intake interviews and help clients fill out and process applications and forms to receive benefits or enrol in a program. Sometimes support workers in agencies help translate for clients who speak other languages or help those agencies develop other language documents and materials or culturally appropriate programs and strategies.


Health support workers like mental health aides can work in inpatient and outpatient clinics, shelters and hospitals. They assist medical staff to meet the needs of patients and assist with therapies. Their assistance is sometimes needed to help patients transition into and out of a facility, learn to live with others in their program or communicate better with medical staff. They can supervise medications and assist in physical and behavioural therapy.


A health and social support worker's education requirements begin at a high school diploma or GED and can be as high as a certification from a technical program, two-year associate's programs or a four-year bachelor's degree. Education requirements for the position depend on what area of assistance or support they will work in. Studies that help meet employer requirements include gerontology, psychology, social work, human services, counselling and social or behavioural science.


In 2008, salaries ranged from £11,635 to £28,281, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The variation depends on the level of education and training and which field the support worker chose. Community health workers, substance abuse workers and mental health residential workers earned on the lower end of the salary spectrum and state and local government employees earned the higher salaries.

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About the Author

Kristin Seale has written and edited copy for international news networks, national nonprofit marketing campaigns and PR projects for over 15 years. She has written for an online sports website, covering events and interviewing athletes. Kristin has enjoyed writing for eHow and Answerbag on many medical and legal topics and is currently studying public health at the University of New Mexico.

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